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Reasons to have kids in your twenties

It’s my son’s birthday today. He’s three. I’m nearly 45. Not necessarily a problem, but my back is not as good as it could be when he’s climbing up on my shoulders…

Yesterday the downstairs neighbour phoned at 7.45am to ask if we could get the child to not run along the hall so loudly.  Not the child’s fault. This nice 1860’s house we live in, though, tends to reverberate like a 13kilo kid is Harrison Bergeron stomping through the rooms.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote a while back, though. I’ve plenty of ex-students who, though fifteen years younger than I, started having their kids at the same age as I. They didn’t get the good sense from their former teacher, but they’re showing their intelligence all the same!

Regardless of your age, I hope you enjoy. Sorry I’ve no photos of actual kids – mine aren’t allowed on the internet.

 

Reasons to have kids in your 20s.

They’ll say you’re stupid; it’s too early,

But don’t listen to their insistence on

Being stable, for kids are earthquakes

Set to undermine any well-laid foundations

So have them while your world is still whirling.

 

Forget that financial comfort buffer,

Which could crack as easily as the flat-screen

You can finally afford. It’s easy to deny

When you don’t have to give. Best let their

Screams of injustice at the sound of no

Echo in an empty house you don’t even own

As you spend decades in a shithole renter

Which becomes somebody else’s problem

Once you leave the safety deposit behind

Along with crayon on the wall and peeled paint.

Better that than they destroy the decent

House you deserve by your forties, and tears

Are indecent in front of a toddler, no matter

How he gouges the hardwood floor, or

Scratches the CDs you kept all those years

Nor tears the copy of the Hobbit you took

To three continents before “settling down.”

Children’s laughter sounds sweeter living

In a house where there’s nothing much to break.

 

The sleep you’ll never get with young kids

You don’t even need yet.

You’re awake all night now, so why not

Stick a bottle in a baby’s mouth while

Watching midnight marathons of Netflix films?

 

In your forties, eight hours is no longer a luxury;

It’s a necessity. But they’ll be out at pyjama parties,

If you’re smart, in other people’s houses.

 

One thing you learn when you become a parent, is

You’re never ready, nor ever could be

No matter how long you wait

So have them early and

When everything steadies, you’ll be ready for

Relaxation while you’re still young enough

To be worth going on holiday with.

 

After all, all the energy you yet have

Once they’re grown up and gone,

They’ll have use of just as much as you;

When the grandkids come calling

And they’re crawling and climbing, finding

Fragile items for pawing, and falling.

 

 

So I have a new book out…

The_Ecology_of_Lonesomeness_by_David_OBrien-200

Your friends don’t give a toss about your new book.

That’s one of the first things authors have to learn when they first publish, along with not to read reviews, not to take bad reviews to heart when they don’t follow that previous rule, and certainly not to comment on bad reviews even though they want to gouge out the eyes of the reviewer.

Your friends are not your friends because you are writer, even if you’re a good one, or a published writer. They were there before you told them you wrote. They were there when you were clicking away at the keyboard in your spare time at work, when you told them you were holding out for the box set of season three of The Wire because you were really writing instead of watching television. And they gave you a pass, held off on the spoilers in your company, though they’d to bite their tongues to do it.

When you put away the notepad you’d been scribbling on in the coffee shop before they came in, they didn’t twist your arm and demand to see your poems, or short stories or whatever. And you were glad.
Now that you’re published, you can’t go and demand everyone read your shit, or get pissed off that nobody seems to give a toss that you have this amazing new novel out now (Spoiler alert: I have a great new novel out today, but I can’t give any more info because it would be spoiling). You can’t now do the equivalent of shove that notebook in their face at the coffee shop and tell them to check out what you just wrote before they sit and get a cup of coffee. The truth is they don’t give a shit.

Yet, if they did, would you be happy? I suspect, because I have no firsthand knowledge of such situations, that it would be similar if a Hollywood movie actor’s friends were all waiting for his or her new flick to come out, or asking them to give a few lines of whatever movie they were rehearsing at the time was. And you’d think they were just there because you were what you were, not who you were.

That’s what I tell myself anyway. It helps when friends don’t give feedback, when they don’t crack the book you asked them to beta-read, when they give you no, “hey, thanks,” or anything of the sort in response to the dedication you put in the book you sent them a copy of when it came out, because, basically, they didn’t even fucking look at the acknowledgments.

There will be plenty of people out there who delight in the fact that you’ve a new book out. They’re not necessarily your friends. They’re called readers. If you are lucky, there will be overlap. But there doesn’t need to be. There just needs to be people in both camps. Lots of people in one, and however-many you’re comfortable with in the other.

When your friends don’t respond to thinks like wedding invitations and photos of your children, you can worry. You might see your book as a newborn baby, but to some you’re basically asking them to get all teary-eyed over a work project you finished. They didn’t read your research thesis, nor the amazing 100-page contract you wrote for the sale of three thousand solar panels to a Chilean copper mine consortium, nor did they do much more than glance at the wing mirror you designed for the new Chevy Volt (is that car even being made?). It’s all work to someone, though it’s art to others.

(for the record, fiction writing is totally fucking art, though my doctoral thesis is also stimulating reading…)